CommonWise Education Inc./ Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative
New York, United States
The Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative (BCDI) is a community-led effort to build an equitable, sustainable and democratic local economy that creates wealth and ownership for low-income people of colour. One of the primary ways it does this is by building a network of local leaders committed economic democracy, and helping them shift their organisations and institutions to take forward-looking, coordinated action to build shared wealth.
BCDI’s Planning and Policy Lab supports long-standing community-based organisations to develop community-driven solutions with additional research, enhanced analytical tools and strategy support. The Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative began when local grassroots organisations realised they needed to ensure that their communities, particularly working class people of colour who make up the majority of the Bronx’s 1.5 million residents, would be the primary decision-makers when it came to planning and economic development. They were galvanised by injustices such as the City’s disregard for a community-led plan to redevelop a vacant armory into much-needed schools, and its proposal instead for a shopping mall that would create low-quality jobs and threaten locally-owned businesses.
Over the past three years BCDI has trained over 250 Bronx residents – most of whom have been leaders or staff of community-based organisations – in principles of economic democracy and systems of cooperative ownership. In part due to these trainings, several of these organizations have shifted their work to support economic democracy. One has made it an explicit goal and is supporting the creation of a community land trust. Another, whose work has long centred on environmental justice and resiliency, is now advocating for community ownership of resilience infrastructure.
“Several elements are very inspiring in this initiative, including key issues not usually addressed in other cases, such as racial justice and economic democracy. In terms of strategies, also remarkable is the clear consciousness about the need to move from resistance to proposals; from barrio to city scale; and from short-term needs and goals to long-term transformation.”
– Lorena Zárate
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